Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rajat Gupta phenomenon fits well into outsourcing of public policy

Such outsourcing, however, is meant to benefit the elite, not the ordinary citizens.
Having read ‘Governance: Rajat Gupta’s many shenanigans,’ Sucheta Dalal’s article that sheds more light on the dubious deals of the former McKinsey boss, I have the following to say.
I believe that the Rajat Gupta phenomenon is part of the much larger problem of outsourcing of public policy and governance to benefit the elite, whose one manifestation is the so called public-private partnership (PPP) policy.
The entire PPP policy as well as individual projects need to be questioned, discussed and debated in public. India’s ‘independent’ media has so far failed to do that job.
(Even a presumably neo-liberal person like Pratap Bhanu Mehta of Centre of Policy Research recently described PPPs -- in an op-ed in Indian Express -- as “more efficient rent-seeking arrangements between the public and private sectors”.
The articles contained in this blog-site shed some light on such rent-seeking arrangements; do read the article on Chhattisgarh Accelerated Road Development PPP. Another important article is the critique of the PPP policy, with references, called ‘The PPP policy: neither value for money nor accountability’.)
I believe it’s extremely important that we view the PPP policy through lens of democracy, the Constitution, and the Indian State’s avowed objectives, rather than take a narrow view insisted upon by the people in power through their Media-assisted propaganda that there is need for private investment in infrastructure (required for high rates of growth) because of budgetary constraints.
(The so called ‘private investment’ is the joke of the century, compared to how public resources have been given away to private parties.)
Also, criticism should focus not on the PPP concept but on how the PPP policy is being conducted in India and how costs and benefits are being apportioned.
Another point that needs to be underlined about the Rajat Gupta phenomenon is that the trend of admitting corporate wheeler dealers and consultant types -- very often on high-value contracts or salaries -- in the formulation and conduct of public policy started long ago and currently central ministries, departments, the Planning Commission, etc, are virtually crawling with such characters.
Manmohan Singh government, obviously, does not lose its sleep over how such characters will undermine India’s parliamentary democracy and accountability.
Compare that with how the elitist and government-aligned media organisations have attacked Anna Hazare-led movement -- overwhelmingly supported by the citizens of India -- to insist that some representatives of the larger society be included in the committee that will draft the Lokpal bill, by calling it a threat to parliamentary democracy.

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